It’s finally spring, and what better month than May to start enjoying the outdoors?
Enter Patrick Kuehn (Paris ’83-84), our May Alum of the Month. Kuehn, a University of Illinois and University of South Carolina alum, is the founder of Youtside Fitness Club, a new concept in “outdoor social fitness” conducted in five locations in Chicagoland.
Having recently moved back to Chicago after 22 years in Europe (France, Italy, Germany, and the UK), Kuehn is using the experience he gained with IES Abroad and in corporate and entrepreneurial ventures to help Chicago get fit. He's even offering a discounted corporate rate to IES Abroad alumni if a minimum of three sign up.
Check out Youtside’s website, then read Kuehn’s interview below to learn how he got to where he is today.
IES Abroad: Why did you choose Paris?
Patrick Kuehn: French was my only foreign language at the time and, combined with my love of art, Paris was the only place for me!
IES Abroad: How did studying abroad influence you, both professionally and personally?
PK: Personally, it opened my eyes to the wonderful diversity of people on this planet. The challenges of living as a foreigner, not always understanding people and being so far from home all helped me to grow as a person. Professionally, it confirmed once and for all that I wanted to have an international career.
IES Abroad: Have you been back to Paris? How has the city changed?
PK: I went back to Paris during graduate school and moved to Paris a few years after graduation. In all, I spent 13 years there and I have to say that one of the things I love about Paris is that everything I fell in love with is still there—the café lifestyle, incredible art and architecture, the beauty of the Seine, endless culinary experiences, great cinema, walkable city, etc.
IES Abroad: What advice would you give students who are thinking of studying or interning abroad?
PK: First of all, for anyone hesitating, just do it! Experiences like this always have the potential to be life-changing and 99% of the time it’s positive! Focus on learning the language, the benefits during and after your study abroad trip are endless. Hang out with locals, not just those from your home country.
IES Abroad: Tell us about your undergraduate and graduate degrees. What interested you about international business and how did that carry you along in your career?
PK: I majored in Business Administration for undergraduate by default since I didn’t have focused career interests. My experience studying abroad convinced me to pursue learning other languages and led me to my graduate degree in International Business. Languages and discovering other cultures was always the foundation—business was the way to fund those passions—and led me to wonderful personal and professional experiences living abroad for 22 years.
IES Abroad: What led you to start Youtside Fitness Club?
PK: I love the great outdoors and have always preferred exercising outside as opposed to in a gym or classroom. When I moved back to Chicago I couldn’t find a fun, effective outdoor fitness program and after an extensive market study developed the concept of “outdoor social fitness,” which isn’t being offered anywhere else.
IES Abroad: What makes Youtside unique?
PK: We emphasize innovative partner and group exercises, which make the workout a lot more fun and make staying motivated a lot easier. People also love the fact that they can choose from three fitness levels for each class. Our trainers adjust the pace, repetitions, and exercises for each group so everyone is challenged at their level. We also introduce a lot of variety to keep it interesting—both in the exercises and in the environment—no two classes are the same.
We give our members the choice to take classes at any of our five (and soon six) locations to fit their lifestyle. We also offer a Member Dashboard so people can track their progress on the (optional) fitness test and see their attendance statistics over time, giving a great sense of accomplishment. And we’re the only outdoor fitness company in Chicago with six cool vans! You can see them on our Facebook page.
IES Abroad: How do Youtside classes take advantage of the city of Chicago?
PK: Four of our five locations are on the East side in some of the most beautiful parks in the city: Lincoln Park North, Lincoln Park South, Montrose Beach, and Oz Park. We work our way around the parks showing off the natural beauty of each location and providing great views of the lake and skyline. We also take advantage of great locations in the suburbs—starting with Naperville and Crystal Lake.
IES Abroad: What is your most popular class?
PK: Because Chicago is such a fitness-minded city, we get a great turnout at all of our locations, and each class time has its fans—6:30 a.m., 9:30 a.m., and 6:00 p.m.
IES Abroad: Walk us through a typical day in your job.
PK: One of the things I love about my job is that I get to do so many different things, from scouting new parks to developing a new partner promotion, working on the website and social media, talking to companies about Youtside team-building and corporate discounts, and my favorite activity—taking a Youtside class!
IES Abroad: What’s next?
PK: We’ve had such a great reaction since we launched and we’re growing quickly, so the key now is to manage our growth and stay focused on the customer experience to keep our customers happy and healthy! We’ll continue to expand in the suburbs and possibly more downtown locations before taking Youtside to other cities in the U.S.